Another man, another report, same old outcomes

28 02 2011

Research from Catalyst, McKinsey and others has shown that women on boards bring higher profits, higher quality earnings, better share price growth, better decisions and higher innovation.

The Davies report accepts this and recommends setting targets and asking companies to provide information on how they are meeting these targets.

How disappointing and predictable! These men just do not seem to get it – we do not want to do business the way that they do.

The Guardian editorial on Monday said: “Companies want women who behave like men. They cannot imagine a world organised differently from the one they see around them now. Equally, many talented women see no reason to tolerate the brutally individualistic environment of many City firms.”

There have been initiatives to encourage companies to “do the right thing” for decades and little has changed.

Business is all about profits and even though reasearch shows that women on boards bring higher profits AND better share price growth the composition of boardrooms hasn’t really changed.

I am not a fan of quotas as we could end up with 50% men in suits and 50% men in frocks. That is the number imbalance will have been addressed but the culture/attitude imbalance will not. If we continue to have women at the top who, generally speaking, are there because they conform to the male pattern of doing business, then nothing will have changed for the mojority of businesswomen.

The3rdi Magazine has been established as a co-operative business to create a community of women all actively working together to change things for the better, not just be manipulating figures but be promoting real change. We welcome your support and the more of us involved the more we can do! (http://www.the3rdimagazine.co.uk/join/)

As a first step we are working with an extraordinary group of women in Scotland on the Inspiring Women Leaders … Dare We? programme. This is a unique year-long programme for women in Scotland focussed on taking action to achieve inspirational systemic change. The programme is borne out of, and builds on, the current national and international debate on women’s leadership; global dialogue exploring the changing nature of business; and research showing economic benefits of diversity in leadership – bringing these together with current exploration of the challenges in achieving systemic transformation.

If you would like more information, please message me.

Whatever you do, get involved. This cannot continue to be someone elses problem. We cannot expect government to fix this. Over the decades big business has shown that it has no real intention of changing.

We need to work together for change

Karen Birch and Anne Casey





The Vision Thing

14 02 2011

There is a difference between being a manager, even a really excellent manager, and being a leader.

Explaining why that is come down to what George W Bush famously described as The Vision Thing.

Women are underrepresented at the top of businesses and are often described as being less visionary than men. I think that the two things may be linked.

When I left my first management job to join another company in a much more senior role the parting words from my old boss were, “being good at your job will never be enough.”

At the time I was puzzled and, quite frankly, annoyed. I took it as a slight. I had been a very good manager; hard-working, conscientious, on top of all the details, got on really well with my team and the rest of the organisation. And I was now moving to a better job. Being good at my job was clearly more than enough.

Over time I came to think that he was referring to politics and the games that are played within some organisations. I really could never be bothered with the Machiavelli like manoeuvrings of some of my colleagues and so, who knows, had I stayed in big corporate business then my reluctance to play may have held me back.

I now think that he probably meant the vision thing.

At that time I didn’t have a vision. I had clearly defined goals, – mostly around earning loads of money, buying an even bigger house and driving an even flashier car – I was only 24 and I did grow up! And I had clearly defined strategies which allowed me to reach my personal goals and achieve success for the businesses I worked for.

Quite honestly the idea that you needed a vision hadn’t occurred to me and even if it had I would probably have dismissed the notion out of hand.

The reason for recounting my own early experience is that I suspect that I am not alone amongst women. Women, generally, do not put much value in the vision thing. We suspect anything that may be seen to favour style over substance. As Margaret Thatcher elequently put it, ” If you want anything said ask a man. If you want anything done ask a woman.”

This feeling is rooted in the fact, as in my own experience, that we feel that we absolutely have to master the detail, to be 100% sure of our position before taking the lead. There is a parallel behaviour in recruitment where it is acknowledged that women need to feel they can fulfill every aspect of the role when applying for a new post whereas men will apply if they feel they fulfill just some of the requirements.

By focussing on the detail and being more sensitive to gaps in our experience we become reluctant to put our head above the parapet or to form a clear vision for ourselves and our organisations. We feel that we have to choose between competence and vision, and usually choose the former. In practice we, our companies and our communities need both.

I have always been competent, growing teams and businesses for over 25 years. I’m a late adopter of the vision thing.

A vision can be, indeed it has to be, something of substance. It isn’t, as I used to think, about mission statements and vacuous  slogans such as such as the Metropolitan Police “Working for a safer London”. Goodness knows who thought that was a good idea and how much paint has been wasted putting that on patrol cars!

I have a vision for the3rdi magazine. Working in partnership with a team of truly amazing women and men we will create a community intent on changing the way the world does business.

Having a vision is one thing, communicating it is another. It means putting yourself, and your hard won reputation for competence, on the line. It requires confidence and belief in your ability to deliver.

Here too, might be another piece in the jigsaw. We may be seen as less visionary as we lack the confidence to put our hands up and be counted.  The issue of womens confidence and self-esteem is a huge one but in the discussion of the vision thing we do need to see that self-belief and the willingness to share what we believe is vital.

And we don’t have to wait until something is perfect. Imperfect action is OK sometimes. My vision for the3rdi changes. This is fine.  Being able to deliver a vision means sensing and responding to new opportunities as they arrive.

Women seeking more senior roles must be seen as visionary. We must be seen as having a vision for ourselves and for the organisations we lead, or would like to lead.

I never, ever thought that I would be grateful to Dubya but we really do need to address THE VISION THING





What is a co-operative and why you should join this one

1 02 2011

A co-operative is a proper business. It is worth stating again. A co-operative is a proper business established to make profits, like any other business.

In launching the3rdi magazine as a co-operative I have been surprised at the ignorance and misunderstanding that surrounds the co-operative business model. So while I generally dislike defining things in terms of what they are not, it is worth dispelling a few myths.

– co-operative are not charities

– co-operatives are not social enterprises

– are not just supermakets or undertakers

From the outside a co-operative looks like any other business. it is what’s on the inside that makes the difference!

Co-operatives are OWNED by their members and exist to serve their members.

The members are the owners, each having an equal say in how the business operates.

As well as getting the products and services they need members help shape the decisions that the co-operative takes.

Co-operatives aim to trade profitably – they make profits!

Co-operatives share the profits amongst their members rather than rewarding outside investors.

Co-operatives are not beholden to anybody, whether that is governments, investors or another business.

Co-operatives collaborate with each other and have a committment to the community they serve.

Across the UK co-operatives are owned by 11 MILLION PEOPLE – and this number is growing!

There are 4,800 independant co-operatives working in all parts of the economy – from healthcare to wind farms, from football clubs to web design companies.

So I hope that it is now clear why we chose this model for the3rdi magazine limited.

* the3rdi magazine limited is a co-operative, member owned business

* it exists to serve the community of women

* we collaborate with women across all sectors of the business community

* we are beholden to no-one; content being drawn from the community

* we are indeperndent, inspiring and informative

* membership is the lifeblood: you OWN the business. We rely on your support to develop the programmes to support women leaders, promote issues of women’s confidence and self-esteem and develop positive networking wiothin the community

* we believe that everyone who is involved in the co-operative should have a real say in how the business develops and the co-operative business model ensures that everyone has an equal say

* we believe that the business has to trade profitably in order to survive in the long term and that these profits should not go to anonymous investors but should be shared amongst the members.

So now you know!

The3rdi Magazine Limited is an independant co-operative business that I am proud to have founded and that welcomes you as a member.